Last updated: 28 June 2015
The Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship International (LEFI) is a registered Christian society which operates as a an independent church denomination and prayer group. The headquarters is located in Chennai, India and it has branches in numerous parts of India and in a few cities outside India. They have a strong drive for evangelism and expect the new souls to join in their own church services. Un-ordained men or laymen preach, evangelise and usually work pro bono while holding a secular job. There is a Bible training school for the people who wish to work full time in this organisation. The classes are generally one or two hours a day and teaching of Biblical languages are not undertaken. There is no definitive period of study for a student and the training could last from a few months to many years. It is not clear if these full time staff get paid for their work. Often the spouse has to hold a secular job to help with the finances. Doctors have “gospel clinics” under their banner. They also run schools in Chennai, Salem, Mettupalayam & Bansi. They manage a hospital in Kashmir. They have their own printing facilities and publish a lot of literature in English, Indian languages and a few non-Indian languages operating under the name Beautiful Books. They publish a magazine called Christ Is Victor. The Indian edition is paid and published monthly while the international edition is published bi-monthly and is available both on their website and physically distributed free outside India. They have a sprawling convention (or retreat) centre called Beulah Gardens in the out skirts of Chennai.
The people who area a part of this organisation (there is no membership) generally have great devotion to the Daniel family and so the Daniels exercise undue charismatic authority on the organisation. All offerings have to be sent to the head quarters (HQ) which controls everything which is in turn controlled by a Daniel. There are allegations that some evangelists do not send all the money to HQ as there is no proper system to check the offerings. But since the offerings flow to the HQ, they can buy property without explicitly asking for funds. But the branches that sent in the money often do not have access to money and so sometimes people use personal money for church activities. The finances are kept secret contrary to the rules of India. People are also expected to marry inside the organisation and the leaders especially Mr. Joshua Daniel do the match making.
It was founded in 1935 by Mr. N. Daniel as a ministry among unemployed youth in Madras (now known as Chennai). Mr. N. Daniel was born in 1897 in Ambalapuram, Andhra Pradesh and graduated with a degree in Mathematics. He married Ms. Deevena and was working as a Mathematics teacher when he was called to help in Madras. He was not very successful in finding jobs for these youth but he taught them the Bible. Missionaries (probably foreign) invited him to preach in churches and there was revival. Soon he became famous as a revival preacher. He remained independent and had the first retreat or convention of his own group in 1945. His ministry and reputation grew steadily till his unexpected death in 1963. Expecting that he would rise again in three days, his burial was delayed.
His eldest son, Joshua Daniel took over the organization after the death of his father. He generally followed the preaching style, theological views and working style of the father. “The son feels pressured to imitate the father. Perhaps this is one reason why so much of what he says sounds affected, artificial, fake”. In the 50 years under his leadership, the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship grew greatly with branches in numerous cities and towns of India and a few foreign countries. The congregations in the foreign branches tend to be very limited but the India branches are well attended. He has started schools, a bakery and they run clinics and a hospital. He lived in the USA for decades but criticised people who went overseas and often urged them to return to India. He used to travel to many countries to preach. The mainly Indian organisation was remotely and tightly controlled by him from the USA. He did not believe in a democratic government of the church and had contempt for committees. There is no clear designation of leaders in the organisation and they have limited power. They could be installed or removed by him at any time without any formal procedure. This seems to have created a situation where people who curry the favour of Joshua Daniel and other leaders are given importance and Biblical qualities for a leader seems to be not often important. He married Dr. Lily and had 5 children (Betty, John, Joseph, James and Lydia) who are all settled in the USA.
The other children of Mr. N. Daniel also had important roles in Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship. Mrs. Kamala Paul helped develop a ministry in Germany, maintained the finances for a while and was involved in children’s and women’s ministry. Her husband Whitsun Paul was in-charge of the Bible training college for many years and had responsibility in the headquarters. They were later been away to start a ministry in north west India. The late Mrs. Persis and her husband Mr. Peter Iqbal were involved in the ministry in Bombay (now Mumbai) and later in the ministry in Trichy. These two sisters had a very legalistic view of Christianity and infected numerous members by their doctrine. It is very difficult for the people influenced by their wrong doctrine to understand grace and truth. The youngest son, late Mr. Francis Daniel ministered in the headquarters and later in Bangalore. He was in-charge of the music ministry and was in charge of the now defunct Good News For All music company. The music ministry is handled by his son Caleb who is also becoming a famous preacher.
Joshua Daniel passed away on October 18, 2014 and thousands attended his funeral service in Beulah Gardens, Chennai and hundreds the burial in the Kilpauk Cemetery, Chennai on November 1st. Joshua Daniel believed that leadership should continue in the family just as Israel’s priestly family and these successions have happened without opposition. So before his demise, his elder son John Daniel was given leadership of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship International. John lives with his wife Birgit and five daughters in Detroit, USA. It appears that he also remotely controls the organisation from the USA. His eldest daughter Betty (Liz Van Camp) seemed to be eyeing a role in the leadership but it was formally announced that she has no part in the organisation due to her multiple marriages and she has not been allowed on the stage. Similar to Absalom, she uses Facebook to woe the members and also brazenly attacks her mother, some leaders and ex-members. After she and her husband tried to physically attack an ex-member, whose family she had been slandering using Facebook and email, a police case was filed against her. She lives with her third husband Chuck Lambdin in South Bend, Indiana, USA. The second and third sons, Joseph and James are critical of the organisation and are not involved with it. His youngest daughter Lydia Daniel name appears in many formal organisational records but she was hardly involved in any of the Indian operation and probably not much of the western operations either. She is not married although it is reported that she has had failed relationships.
Like any organisation, the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship International has it’s own shortcomings. But unfortunately they portray themselves as a superior and blessed church and it is often impossible to open their eyes to obvious shortcomings. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 13:15 “This people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed” so it seems that many of the members refuse to accept the truth of the Bible but stick to the teaching of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship International even if it is wrong. They exhibit characteristics of a cult and use of mind control. As this website seeks to open the eyes and ears of Christians that they may understand the truth, this organisation has been highlighted so that its members and others with similar backgrounds may have their eyes and ears opened.
Some articles that should be helpful in understand the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship better:
Believe and be saved
Find out how to be born again and if LEF’s mothod is Biblical.
Are gurus needed?
Find out if Christians need gurus and if it is right to treat Mr. Joshua Daniel as one.
Is Extra-Biblical knowledge needed?
Find out if any Christian can know the truth from the Bible or if special knowledge possessed by select individuals needed.
Demons or sin?
Find out if Christians who have wrong behaviour like anger, pride are demon possessed.
How preaching seems to have gone wrong in churches.
The importance of Bible Study
Understand the importance of Bible study.